Tourists Who Took Selfies With Wild Bears Have Been Jailed
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Featured Image Credit: Explore.org/YouTube
Three tourists have been sentenced to jail after they approached brown bears in a national park.
On 9 August, 2018, David Engelman was caught on livestream approaching a group of feeding brown bears at the Brooks Falls viewing area in Katmai National Park, Alaska to take some selfies.
He, Ronald J. Engelman and Steven Thomas were noted as putting their own and the bears' lives in danger.
The trio have since been sentenced.
According to a release from the Department of Justice US Attorney's Office, both David and Ronald Engelman received a fine of $3,000, a sentence of one week in prison and one year of probation.
An equal fine of $3,000 was given to Thomas, as well as one year of probation, however Thomas only received 10 days in prison.
A year-long ban was also given to the three men, prohibiting them from entering any national park.
Three men are sentenced to jail time and ordered to pay a total of $9,000 for illegally leaving the Brooks Falls viewing platform and entering a closed area of the Brooks River at Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park. @KatmaiNPS @NatlParkServicehttps://t.co/EQK5N6DLhn— U.S. Attorney Alaska (@USAO_AK) May 16, 2022
Katmai Conservancy will receive the $9,000 fine money.
The non-profit organisation 'supports the preservation of Katmai National Park and Preserve, its unique ecosystems, scenic character, and associated natural and cultural resources by promoting greater public interest, appreciation, and support through education, interpretation, and research'.
The funds will subsequently be used for law enforcement and other park necessities.
Patiently waiting for bear season like....— Katmai National Park (@KatmaiNPS) March 25, 2022
But when exactly is bear season? We may see the first bears at Brooks Camp in April, with peak numbers typically in July. In the town of King Salmon, where the park has its headquarters, bears are already out & about.
Photo c/o L. Law pic.twitter.com/cmL0Qx4G0P
Reflecting on the ruling, District of Alaska US Attorney S. Lane Tucker explained how the 'conduct' of the men 'not only endangered other visitors and wildlife officers at Brooks Falls, they also potentially endangered the life of the bears'.
Lane stated: "We are committed to working with Alaska’s National Park Service to ensure everyone who visits our parks can have a safe experience in seeing these magnificent animals in their natural habitat."
Mark Sturm, superintendent of Katmai National Park and Preserve, echoed a similar sentiment.
He said: "These individuals behaved carelessly and put themselves at great risk. Brown bears are fierce, territorial predators, especially when concentrated in order to feed on migrating salmon.
"Things could have easily ended very badly."
Plan, prepare, and know before you go! Be ready for Alaska level wildlife safety.— Katmai National Park (@KatmaiNPS) May 16, 2022
Katmai is renowned for its incredible bear viewing opportunities. Visitors to Brooks Camp must attend "bear school" but learning can start now by checking out at https://t.co/g68PHv4Pds. pic.twitter.com/vKuDtMvnC1
The trio's actions were also condemned by Magistrate Judge Scoble as putting the future of the park at risk.
If a bear or human had been killed, he argued it would have likely impacted whether or not people visited the park, which would have subsequently affected its income and ability to remain open.
The men's behaviour was concluded by Magistrate Judge Scoble as 'drunken capering, and a slap in the face to those who were there'.
If you see an animal in distress and/or in need of help, contact the RSPCA's 24-hour animal cruelty line on 0300 1234 999 or visit their website for further advice